Tag Archives: ministry

The Call of a Godly Leader

A godly leader must have a proper motivation for leadership. Leadership is a role, as much as it is a quality of character and an endowment of gifts. Biblical leadership is faithful service of a faith-filled servant.

God has given His people a calling. The first, and most important calling is to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  God calls all people through the means of the proclamation of the Good News about Jesus Christ (His sacrificial work of life and death for the sins of His people was accepted by God, so God raised Him from the dead and placed Jesus at the Father’s right hand in the heavenlies). This general calling is a universal one presented all to whom the Gospel is preached,  to receive and believe upon Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. This is an external calling (Matthew 22:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 14:16-24; Acts 13:46; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 John 5:10). It is a sincere presentation of the Good News in Christ to sinners, exhorting them to turn from their sins and turn to God for the forgiveness of their sins in belief. This is a universal calling in that the Gospel is freely offered to any and all who would only believe. God does not consider one’s gender, nationality, race, or status in life when giving this call (Isaiah 55:1ff; Joel 2:32; Matt. 11:28; 22:14; John 3:16; Acts 18:9,10; 2 Cor. 5:20; Rev. 22:17)

Yet there is also a special calling from God. This calling is internal. The Holy Spirit brings the Gospel message to the very heart of the person, and that person is able to receive and believe the Good News of salvation. This is also called an effectual calling. It is effectual because the external call is made effective by the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:48; Romans 1:6; 8:29,30; 11:29; 1 Corinthians 1:23-26; Hebrews 9:15; 2 Peter 1:10 Revelation 17:14).

What we mean is that a person has the inward call from God, so he is responsive to the gifting and the call of the Holy Spirit in his life (Acts 20:28), and hence he desires the office he has as a believer in Christ (a son of God, a co-heir, etc.).

Every believer has another calling in life. That would be to fulfill the God-given mandate to live life before the face of God by applying his gifts and talents God has given to him to all of life. This calling is a person’s vocation. The vocation is more than a job. It is living out and doing what God has placed within him to be and do in life. It might be as a plumber, or musician, a teacher or an artist. God is honored and glorified by this, as much as He is glorified and pleased by those whom He has called to particular kingdom office (deacon, elder or pastor).

The godly leader also has a more specific call for his role as leader. All Christian men are called to fulfill their leadership responsibilities in the various areas to which they were called (husband, father, son, etc.) This means the man is exercising his “kingship” as vicegerent to the Lord in all areas of his life.

Still others receive a more particular call to church office (1 Tim. 3:1). His motives are to be biblical and Christ-like (1 Peter 5:1ff).  Not only does one have the inward call of God, but also that call must be recognized as a qualified and legitimate call by the community of God’s people (Acts 6). He cannot merely assume that because he may be gifted and has that inner motive that he can assume the office in God’s church. . He must also be properly called of God through the means of God’s church (Jer. 23:32; Rom. 10:15; Heb. 5:4). This is what is called ordination.

 

-DTO

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Call to Ministry, Pastoring

Rabble Roused

How can I minister to complainers when I’d rather give them the boot?
by M. Craig Barnes, Leadership editor at large

 

When the Hebrews left Egypt to begin their difficult journey through the desert to the Promised Land, they brought “the rabble” with them. These were not true believers in this journey or in the God who called them to it. The rabble’s toleration for discomfort was low and their capacity for complaint was high, always an unfortunate combination.

All the pastors I know would love to get rid of the rabble in their church. The dopey thing is that the rabble keep threatening to leave if we don’t service their needs. “If you don’t get a better youth pastor in here, we’ll just go to another church.” Why do they think that’s threatening? “So go,” I want to say. But the rabble never leave.

There is a holy purpose for the rabble. Their complaining places the pastor in the awkward position of standing between the people and the God they cannot see. The grace of that awkwardness is that it forces the pastor to pray, looking for the One who is present but not apparent.

Through most of the wilderness journey, Moses was a model of patient leadership. When the people complained about their thirst, he found water. When they complained about the lack of food, he pointed to manna. When they complained that he was gone too long on Sinai and turned to the idol of a golden calf, Moses interceded and talked God out of consuming them.

Later the people complained about their “misfortunes.” This time God torched a few of them and would have burned up the whole camp if Moses hadn’t interceded again. Immediately afterward the rabble got everyone complaining about how sick and tired they were of manna. They wanted meat!

It was then that Moses finally snapped: “Why have you treated your servant so badly, that you lay the burden of this people on me? Am I their mother? Where am I supposed to find meat for all these people? I am not able to carry this people. If you care about me at all, just kill me and get it over with” (Num. 11:11-15).

It is the repetition of the complaining that tempts the leader to burnout.

Want to know my most vivid memory from the last 23 years of pastoral ministry? Déjà vu.

I’ve had the exact same conversations in three different churches: the youth group eating pizza in the church parlor, no one fills the church van with gas, the struggle to find Sunday school teachers, and the question about special offerings hurting the general budget. Even in pastoral counseling the same conversations just keep happening. After the fiftieth time hearing how mean someone’s parents were, I want to say, “Why are you stuck here? Why am I stuck here?”

When you’re in leadership it is tempting to think your job is to get the people to the Promised Land. But that’s actually God’s job. Your job is to bear their burdens while they’re in the wilderness. We prefer just the opposite. Let God love the people and we’ll just move them along.

But pastors are called to serve as wilderness guides, wandering through the ordinary with their people, loving them enough to point to the manna that keeps them spiritually alive even when it is unappreciated. We have to choose to keep embracing this high calling.

So you have to make choices about which inner voice you’re going to honor, or the rabble of anxiety will overwhelm you.

Here’s the scary part: God will honor your choices. As Moses eventually discovered, if you get fed up with wandering around and keep asking God to get these people to the Promised Land without you, you’ll get your wish. Moses wasn’t with them when they finally crossed the Jordan. And it didn’t make him as happy as he thought it would.

Editor at large Craig Barnes is pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church and professor of leadership and ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

Leadership Journal
November 15, 2004

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church

by Chris Armstrong
Jonathan Edwards’s church kicked him out after 23 years of ministry, but the crisis proved his greatness was not merely intellectual.
________________________________

As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point. The fact that it took place in a New England fast moving from theocratic “city on a hill” to democratic home of liberty is more relevant.

But another aspect is worth a closer look: Friends and enemies alike agreed that in the long, degenerating discontent, Edwards continued to love and pray for—or at least tolerate and refrain from attacking—his people, even when they bared their fangs.

Salary controversies and power struggles marked his ministry during the 1740s. In the infamous “bad book” episode of 1744, some teen boys in the church distributed a midwife’s manual, using it to taunt and make suggestive comments in front of girls. When the culprits were summoned before the church, their response, according to documents of the proceedings, was “contemptuous … toward the authority of this Church.”

Edwards chose to read before the church a list containing, indiscriminately, the names of both the young distributors as well as the purported witnesses. Some parents were outraged at Edwards.

Another issue was Edwards’s personality and style as a minister. At the outset of his ministry at Northampton, for example, he decided that he would not pay the customary regular visits to his congregants, but would rather come to their side only when called in cases of sickness or other emergency. This made him seem, to some in the church, cold and distant.

An Edwards “disciple,” Samuel Hopkins, later wrote that this practice was not due to lack of affection and concern for his people: “For their good he was always writing, contriving, labouring; for them he had poured out ten thousand fervent prayers; and they were dear to him above any other people under heaven.”

Rather, Edwards had made a clear-eyed assessment of his own gifts and decided that he was unable to match the graceful gregariousness of those ministers who had a “knack at introducing profitable, religious discourse in a free, natural, and … undesigned way.”

Thus he would “do the greatest good to souls … by preaching and writing, and conversing with persons under religious impressions in his study, where he encouraged all such to repair.”

Edwards’s ministry might yet have endured, however, were it not for the death of his uncle, Colonel John Stoddard, in 1748. Born in 1682, 21 years before Edwards, the colonel had built a friendship with his nephew. A sharp thinker, a county judge, and a savvy politician, John was a militia colonel who had become commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts western frontier by 1744. Stoddard wore—at least in the secular sphere—the mantle of his father and Edwards’s grandfather, “pope” of the Connecticut Valley, Solomon Stoddard.

Edwards found himself often leaning on his uncle’s influence to navigate the affairs of the church. Thus when Stoddard died, Edwards lost not only an uncle but a powerful ally and confidante.

As Iain Murray put it in his biography of Edwards: “There would be no open criticism of Edwards as long as Stoddard sat appreciatively in his pew beneath the pulpit in the meeting-house Sunday by Sunday.” Once the colonel was gone, however, that changed dramatically.

Stoddard’s heir-apparent as Hampshire County’s leading figure was Edwards’s cousin Israel Williams, a Harvard graduate, imperious in manner and implacably set against Edwards. In his early nineteenth-century biography, descendant S. E. Dwight named Israel and several others of the Williams clan as having “religious sentiments [that] differed widely from” those of Edwards. Their opposition soon became “a settled and personal hostility.” Williams served as counselor and ringleader to Edwards’s opponents. Joining this opposition were another cousin, Joseph Hawley Jr., 21 years Edwards’s junior.

Visible saints, hidden agendas
The same year John Stoddard died, an event finally pushed the hostile faction into open revolt.

For years, Edwards had been uncomfortable with the lenient policy on membership and communion set by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, Edwards’s predecessor at Northampton. Stoddard had allowed almost anyone to join and to partake, hoping that membership and communion might encourage true conversion. In 1748, Edwards changed the policy and told an applicant for church membership that he must first make a public “profession of godliness.”

Thus Edwards rejected the “Halfway Covenant”—the longstanding compromise of the Puritans who had, generations after planting their religious colonies, found their church membership dwindling. That compromise had reversed the traditional Puritan requirement that new church members be “visible saints,” godly in word and deed.

When the congregation saw that Edwards intended to return to the earlier, stricter Puritan position, demanding not only a profession of faith, but also evidence of repentance and holiness, a firestorm arose. Many of the church’s leading members felt Edwards’s innovation was a direct threat.

Two revivals had produced many converts, but, as biographer Patricia Tracy put it, “Men and women who had been recognized as visible saints in Northampton still wallowed in clandestine immorality and flagrant pride.”

Though Edwards knew, as he notes in his letters, that he was likely to lose his pastorate as a result, he stuck to his principles.

A council of the congregation put a moratorium on new memberships until the issue of criteria could be resolved. Edwards told them he planned to preach on his reasons for changing the policy. They forbade him to do so. Edwards began to write a book on the matter. Few read it, and too late to do much good.

In 1750, a council was called to consider whether the congregation would dismiss its minister. No one doubted what the conclusion would be.

Edwards’s friend David Hall noted in his diary the minister’s reaction when on June 22, 1750, the council handed down its decision:

“That faithful witness received the shock, unshaken. I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good … even to the astonishment of many who could not be at rest without his dismission.”

46 and unemployed
Edwards wrote that he now found himself a 46-year-old ex-minister “fitted for no other business but study,” with a large family to provide for. Although he knew “we are in the hands of God, and I bless him, I am not anxious concerning his disposal of us,” he fretted over his situation in letters to friends. Yet neither the distressing conditions nor the continuing antagonism of his opponents drew him out to open attack.

Remarkably (and partly because of financial need), Edwards agreed to continue preaching at the church while they searched for a replacement. But his Farewell Sermon also indicates he acted out of continued concern for the flock. He continued through mid-November, despite the Town maliciously barring him, a month after his dismissal, from using its common grazing land.

Finally in December 1750, after an anxious autumn during which he had even considered removing his entire family to Scotland to accept an invitation there, Edwards accepted a charge in Massachusetts’s “wild west,” the Indian town of Stockbridge. There he would labor the rest of his life, pursue his theological thinking to its most brilliant heights, and create one of the most enduring missionary biographies of all time, the life story of his young friend David Brainerd.

Belated praise
In 1760, his former enemy, cousin Joseph Hawley, wrote to Edwards’s friend David Hall, confessing that “vast pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity” had animated his leadership in the “melancholy contention” with Edwards. He repented of his earlier failure to render the respect due Edwards as a “most able, diligent and faithful pastor.”

Hawley concluded, “I am most sorely sensible that nothing but that infinite grace and mercy which saved some of the betrayers and murderers of our blessed Lord, and the persecutors of his martyrs, can pardon me; in which alone I hope for pardon, for the sake of Christ, whose blood, blessed by God, cleanseth from all sin.”

On June 22, 1900, exactly 150 years after Edwards’s dismissal, a group gathered at the First Church in Northampton to unveil a bronze memorial.

H. Norman Gardiner, a professor of philosophy at Smith College and chairman of the memorial committee, characterized Edwards’s ejection as “a public rejection and banishment” that remained “a source of reproach to his church and people.” He noted the “hatred, malice, and uncharitableness which characterized the opposition to him,” for which, to Gardiner, no apology either contemporary or modern could atone.

Edwards would have disagreed, arguing instead that even such deeply wounding actions as the aggravated and wrongful dismissal of a pastor from his pulpit of 23 years are not unforgivable. In that understanding, as in so much else, Edwards was far ahead both of his enemies and of many of us today.

2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Winter 2003, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Page 52

Leave a comment

Filed under Abuse in the Church, Abusing Pastors, Conflict and the Church, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

Pastoring is Hard (and that’s an understatement)!

My Advice to Young Pastors  

Written by Timothy Hammons

The church is hard and if you are going there for any other reason than the fact that He calls you there, you will be beat up and disappointed. In fact, you are going to get beat up if He has called you there, but the difference is the status of your heart as He tends to you through the fires of the ministry. If He hasn’t called you there… don’t go.

Go straight to selling insurance and save yourself and your wife the grief of being a pastor in the church. Since so many of us end up selling insurance, you are getting a jump on all the other seminary grads in your class and you will be much happier in the long run.

But given that you are “called by God,” I guess I should offer some serious advice. The above was an attempt at humor. Maybe you will get it after being the ministry for ten or so years. Not that all young pastors will have tough ministries. I seem to know quite a few who are doing quite well in the ministry. They love it. Things are going well. But given the odds, only a few of those who graduate from seminary will have the big prosperous ministries whereas the rest of us just get to wonder what that is like.

Most of us fall in the middle lines of small churches. We struggle to make ends meet. The ministry is hard on our marriages and families. We see the ugly under belly of the church far more often than we see the fruit of our ministry as so many pastors claim they see. We strive to be faithful to our callings but its hard when members of the church are telling us the body would be much better off without us.

We pray to the Lord that blessings would flow in our ministries, but the blessings are few and far between and after a while, we start praying that the Lord would open the door for us to support our families in some other calling. We long for the moment that we can tell the disgruntled member to stick it. Not that we actually would say anything of the sort. Fortunately, we have the Lord’s Spirit dwelling in us that keeps us from following the flesh when we would like to.

We remember deep down that those disgruntled members belong to Christ as well. We wonder why God would bother with such wretched men and women of the church and His Spirit answers those questions on a regular basis in our own hearts. So we keep silent where the flesh screams for vengeance and follow the Spirit instead.

We strive to be faithful, preaching God’s word week in and week out, more often, knowing that with each sermon the Spirit of God is going to work on us far more than it works on the congregation. It takes it’s toll. We come down out of the pulpit, after being used by God, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot find a rock big enough to crawl under. We want nothing to do with the sermon we labored so hard to craft, nothing to do with the truth that scorched us so badly. Even when its a great sermon, we are spent and done for the day and hope for nothing more than sleep so we can recover just like Elijah after God used him to defeat the prophets of Baal. The congregation never sees the spiritual battle that took place in the pulpit, and before that, in the study, and most importantly, in our hearts. It leaves us like Elijah, saying “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

“The ministry is hard,” is what one fellow pastor told me. That was an understatement. It makes sense of the statements by those grey-haired professors in seminary who use to say, “if you can go do anything else besides ministry, then do so.” Now that I have grey hair, I echo their sentiments. But then there is that call of God.

If the ministry was just another career choice, then it could be easy to walk away from. I know how to walk away from other careers. I’ve been a disc jockey in radio, in the military, a journalist, and a host of other small careers mixed in to fill in the gaps. I walked and God opened the door for me to do so. But He hasn’t since I entered the ministry some sixteen years ago. I’ve asked Him at times, “Lord, if there is something else I can do…“

The irony is that I’m highly qualified in certain skill sets that look good in certain circles of the work force, just as I’m qualified as a pastor. The problem: just like there are 200 pastors for every pulpit in my denomination, there are plenty of people jumping to fill in those circles where I’m gifted.

By God’s grace, He has kept me in the ministry. He hasn’t opened any doors and even though I feel spent, used up, empty, broken, sad, disappointed… I know the hand behind that calling. While the church can be hard, faithless, mean, unforgiving, lonely, and filled with a host of other maladies, the ONE behind the church is not. He is faithful, and loving, and kind, and gentle and merciful. He holds me up when I don’t have the strength to do so. He speaks through me when I have no desire to speak. He keeps me moving forward and helps me be faithful in this calling of His. When I enter that pulpit, that place of His calling, He comes and stands with me. He leads me on and gives me the words to speak that I don’t want to utter. He encourages me and carries me along. That is the blessing of my week. Through all the struggles and difficulties, He stands with me. That is what keeps me going.

So what is my advice to young pastors? Sell insurance. Otherwise, make sure that you are walking with Him and more importantly, that He is leading you where go. The church is a hard place.

I used to get mad when I would come across people who had been hurt inside the church, left to depart and never to return. I don’t get mad anymore. I understand. The church is hard and if you are going there for any other reason than the fact that He calls you there, you will be beat up and disappointed. In fact, you are going to get beat up if He has called you there, but the difference is the status of your heart as He tends to you through the fires of the ministry. If He hasn’t called you there… don’t go. Go where He calls you, because it is that calling that will keep you there striving to be faithful when the sheep have bitten you for the umpteenth time.

Trust Him and look to Him. In Him you will find your joy. If you look for joy in your church, you will only be disappointed. Remember, our Lord and God is Jesus Christ, not St. First Church of the Spiritually Dead. To look to the church for any level of satisfaction, especially as it’s undershepherd, is breaking the First Commandment. You must look to Him and Him alone for all that you need, otherwise the bruises will mount up over time and drive you from your pulpit.

In remembering these truths… we can enter back into the pulpit as we are called to do, to say the things the world despises but the Lord loves. When we look to Him for our guidance, we truly do mount with wings of eagles, staying strong and not growing faint because He is the One that maintains us. To enter the pulpit in any other fashion will lead to disillusion. But with Him, there is the strength we need to proclaim what men most despise. That is my advice to young pastors. Do not enter the ministry on your own strength and zeal, but on His. Otherwise, sell insurance.

Teaching Elder Timothy Hammons is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is serving as interim pastor of Grace PCA in Jackson, Tenn. This is from his blog (http://timothyjhammons.com/) and is used with permission.

Leave a comment

Filed under Abusing Pastors, Church Leadership, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times

Below are selected quotes from a book, edited by John Armstrong, that I would recommend to fellow pastors and church leaders.

Here are the excerpts:
To put it briefly, this book is written to help us return to those truths that made the church great.
“For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition” (1 Cor.16:18).

While affirming the Bible’s authority, large numbers of pastors now use it ever so lightly (inconsequentially) in preaching popular sermons aimed at restoring the emotional and spiritual health of their flocks. They counsel with profound dependence upon the newest fads and popular psychological books while they lead with the sharpest managerial techniques of the most successful corporations of our age.
The focus of the Bible is not upon plans for successful living. It is not upon the family. It is not on growing large and successful churches. It is not about dealing with codependency or self-esteem. And it is certainly not about political concerns the church must address prior to every national election. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is about Christ.
The revival of Christian experience (if it really is Christian at all) without the recovery of Christian truth would be an unmitigated disaster.
These attacks are rarely waged over real doctrinal subjects since most church members know very little real doctrine in the first place! They are usually aimed at the pastor’s inability to keep the entire flock happy and positive toward his overall ministry.
We may still confess the same creeds and statements of faith, but we do not confess them in a way that makes a real differenceeason ministers have lost their way is not hard to find. There is no vivid sense of otherworldliness among us. God as absolutely holy no longer matters. We live for the now! We actually think the Gospel is a message that is primarily about putting lives back together. We have no sense of the eternal. As a result we have a Mr. Fix-it mentality about the Christian ministry. The church wants a pastor who can fix the problems of the congregation-social, emotional, marital, financial, and spiritual. Kindle location 258.
In previous generations the minister was understood to be the “man of God.” He handled the Word and cared for the souls of his people. Today if he is truly successful, he is more likely to be the manager of a local corporation. Kindle location 262.
Pastors are weak human instruments who must be filled with divine authority. There is no other way to accomplish the true work of pastoral ministry. True authority never comes from within our human persona or from the office (or gifting) itself, but from a divinely given mandate and from a scripturally based message.
[This quotation comes from a longer statement called The Preacher’s Mandate and is used by permission of The Cornerstone Trust, Box 1906, Cave Creek, Arizona 85327]: The Preacher’s Mandate Pray as though nothing of eternal value is going to happen unless God does it. Prepare as giving “my utmost for his highest.” Seek not to “get a message” from the scripture, but seek “the message” of the scripture. Be satisfied not with producing good content, but with producing good people. Attend carefully to a private and public walk with God, knowing the congregation never rises to a standard higher than that being lived by the preacher. Be “persuaded that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” “Preach the word”-not about the word, not from the word, not with the word-affirming it is only proclamations of God’s word that carry God’s authority and his promise to bless. Exalt Christ preeminently, trusting he will then draw people to himself. Balance declarations of “salvation by faith alone” with declarations describing the life Christ produces when he sees saving faith; transformed heart, desire to serve the Lord not self, growing affection for his word, increasing obedience, fruit of the Spirit, saltiness in society, maturing Christlikeness. Depend solely upon God for translation of spiritual truth into life. Preach Christ’s word in Christ-like demeanor. Agree it is impossible at one and the same time to impress people with Christ and with oneself. Allow the preaching to exude the fruit of the Spirit, lest the preaching fail to produce Christ-like lives. Preach with humble gratitude, as one privileged to be an oracle of God. Trust God to produce in the hearers his chosen purposes-irrespective of whether the results are readily visible. Kindle 341
Discouragements and obstacles abound. In our ministries many of us confront much that is disheartening and rubs against our efforts to walk the King’s highway of holiness. We often feel frustrated, disappointed, near despair, and often quite unholy. So much of what we are makes us unprofitable and so much of what we do appears to be fruitless. As John Stott says, “Discouragement is an occupational hazard of the Christian ministry.”  Kindle 636 

Note that godly living involves both discipline and the continued grace of the Holy Spirit. This dual emphasis upon duty and grace is fundamental to Puritan thinking on godly living.’ As John Havel wrote, “The duty is ours, though the power be God’s. A natural man has no power, a gracious man hath some, though not sufficient; and that power he hath, depends upon the assisting strength of Christ. 116
Likewise, Jean Massillon (16631742), a famous French preacher, said to a group of ministers: A pastor who does not pray, who does not love prayer, does not belong to that Church, which “prays without ceasing.” He is a dry and barren tree, which cumbers the Lord’s ground. He is the enemy, and not the father of his people. He is a stranger, who has usurped the pastor’s place, and to whom the salvation of the flock is indifferent. Wherefore, my brethren, be faithful in prayer, and your functions will be more useful, your people more holy; your labors will prove much sweeter, and the Church’s evils will diminish. Kindle 702
If you long to be drawn closer to Christ, read Thomas Goodwin’s Christ Our Mediator, Alexander Gross’s Happiness of Enjoying and Making a Speedy Use of Christ, Isaac Ambrose’s Looking Unto Jesus, John Brown’s Christ: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, or Friedrich Krummacher’s The Suffering Savior. If you are sorely afflicted, read Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, J. W. Alexander’s Consolation to the Suffering People of God, James Buchanan’s Comfort in Affliction, or Murdoch Campbell’s In All Their Affliction. If you are buffeted with temptation, read John Owen’s Temptation and Sin. If you want to grow in holiness, read John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart or Octavius Winslow’s Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. Kindle 744
In the early 1900s Methodist Bishop William Quail carried the idea further by asking and answering a rhetorical question: “`Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?’ he asked. `Why no, that is not preaching. Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that!” Kindle 898
One of these lessons came in the form of the offertory prayer. Almost infallibly when called upon to pray before “taking up” the offering, some wizened older man with sunburned face turning suddenly white at the juncture of his head where his cowboy hat was worn 365 days out of the year would implore the Lord to “bless this young man You have sent to us today. Give him Your message, and be pleased to hide him behind the cross.” Kindle 1015 

What a text says and what it means are the concerns of the teacher. But the preacher, while being committed to the accuracy of the biblical text, goes beyond the work of the teacher, for preaching has as its ultimate goal redemptive penetration. In describing the nature of God’s Word, Hebrews 4:12 provides a working vision of preaching: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Kindle 1226
This deep penetration of the Word by the Spirit reflects the apostles’ priority: “We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It is prayer that drives the Word into the preacher’s imagination, conscience, and passion and creates the preparation for the ministry of the Word.
John MacArthur has aptly put it this way: “Worship is all that we are, reacting to all that God is.”
When God’s people are being scripturally fed and led and are part of a growing church climate and culture that is increasingly Word-centered and thereby more God-centered, they want more of what God wants.
We must teach God’s people that it is vanity to come to God’s house with a flippant and unprepared heart (Eccl. 5:1-7). They must understand that God is to be treated as holy by all who come near to him (Lev. 10:3).
Because we are to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our `God is a consuming fire”‘ (Heb. 12:28-29).
In addition, we must teach God’s people to discipline their minds in worship (2 Cor. 10:5), so that wandering thoughts will not disrupt them during their worship.
the tacit implication is that a pastor will be hired to serve as the moral errand-boy of the congregation, performing those good deeds the parishioners deem appropriate but have little time to undertake. Kindle 1902 .
Eugene Peterson has rightly captured this inconsistency: We are, most of us, Augustinians in our pulpits. We preach the sovereignty of our Lord, the primacy of grace, the glory of God: “By grace are ye saved … Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV). But the minute we leave our pulpits we are Pelagians. In our committee meetings and our planning sessions, in our obsessive attempts to meet the expectations of people, in our anxiety to please, in our hurry to cover all the bases, we practice a theology that puts our good will at the foundation of life and urges moral effort as the primary element in pleasing God. The dogma produces the behavior characteristic of the North American pastor: if things aren’t good enough, they will improve if I work a little harder and get others to work harder. Add a committee here, recruit some more volunteers there, squeeze a couple of hours more into the workday. Pelagius was an unlikely heretic; Augustine an unlikely saint. By all accounts Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing. Everyone seems to have liked him immensely. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had some kind of Freudian thing with his mother, and made a lot of enemies. But all our theological and pastoral masters agree that Augustine started from God’s grace and therefore had it right, and Pelagius started from human effort and therefore got it wrong…. How did it happen that Pelagius became our master? Our closet Pelagianism will not get us excommunicated or burned at the stake, but it cripples our pastoral work severely … it is catastrophic to the church’s wholeness and health.’ Kindle 1908
What the New Testament describes as fellowship-souls knit together in love, having all things in common, considering others as more important than oneself, trusting one another’s protection enough to allow for mutual, personal confession of sin, preferring one another as forgiven brothers and sisters, and working diligently to enhance the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in one another unto love and good deeds-is today described in terms of social events, friendly greeters, punch and cookies, name tags, meals-on-wheels, and creatively named affinity groups. Kindle 2121 .
Simply put, true fellowship cannot be programmed, packaged, or produced through even the most creative energies focused on people. Healthy fruit comes from healthy roots, and in the case of true fellowship, the root is Christ.
Fellowship among believers is the fruit of fellowship with Christ.
Of all the challenges we face in ministry today, three stand out as those that present the greatest opposition to true fellowship. Consumerism. One of the most daunting realities I face as a pastor is the challenge of turning religious consumers into humble servants. The consumer mentality, where the customer is king, has set the church back on its heels. What pastor does not feel the pressure to give religious consumers what they are shopping for so they will become steady customers? In many churches everything from preaching and music to child-care and parking is reexamined almost monthly to ensure that the church meets the ever-changing needs of the religious consumer. Kindle 2139. 


Unfortunately, sooner or later we have to tell them that, actually, Christianity is not man-centered but God-centered. The customer isn’t the king-God is. The church exists for Him and is called to exalt Him above all else, in humility and fear. We have to take those whom we have attracted and assimilated by meeting their needs and tell them that Christian maturity demands that they now subordinate their needs to the needs of others, their wants to the wants of Christ. Kindle 2147.
Independence may allow for cordiality, but it usually resists intimacy. Kindle 2169
In a networking context, people are ranked according to how their resources, position, knowledge, or influence can help you reach your goals. Kindle 2180
The networking mind-set presents great challenges in the church. First, it makes the purpose of the gathered community the promotion of the individual rather than the exaltation of God. And second, it undermines true fellowship. Unfortunately, many in the church today have honed their networking skills and insights so well that they have largely lost the ability to appreciate people as people. We have become programmed to pursue those who can help us, who are like us, or who offer us some advantage. We only value those we consider valuable. But this is quite the opposite of true church fellowship. Kindle 2184.
If it is the fruit of fellowship in the church that you want, fertilize the root of union with Christ. The first grows from the second. The only effective energy for a fellowship among believers that truly shares a common life is a recognition that that common life is the life of Christ. Show me a group of redeemed laborers who find daily delight in their union with Christ, whose one goal is the glory of Christ, whose only boast is in the cross of Christ, and I will show you a group of people whose love and preference for one another is radiant and inviting. That love is the fruit of their deep understanding that they have been joined to Christ through faith and thus share a unity that transcends the natural and previews heaven. They love because they first were loved. The fruit of their fellowship is rooted in Christ Himself. Kindle 2238.
The idea that our life for Christ ought to be a reflection of our life in Christ is one of the great themes of the New Testament. Jesus Himself exhorted those on the hillside that the light of their lives ought to reflect their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Later he told the Twelve that their love for each other was to reflect His love for them (John 13:35). Elsewhere we see that our lives are to reflect the life of Christ, including His holiness (1 Pet. 1:15), His faithful endurance (Heb. 12:1- 3), His humility (Phil. 2:5-8), and His submission (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Kindle 2243.
TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Promote the Christ-centeredness of the Communal Meal
Promote the Equality of Those Partaking

Promote the Unity of Christ in His Church
George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the eighteenth century, once remarked to Mr. Betterton, a famous actor, “Why is it that the clergy, who speak of real things, affect people so little, and the players, who speak of imaginary things, affect them so much?” Betterton responded, “My lord, I can assign but one reason-we players speak of things imaginary as though they were real, and too many of the clergy speak of things real as though they were imaginary.”Kindle 2832  
So if that’s all the stuff we’re not doing, what are we doing? I have concentrated on praying, modeling, teaching, and working to create in the church a culture of faithfulness and prayerfulness in relationships, and friendliness and spiritual conversation among members of the church. Kindle 2915

We’ve used various courses-for example, Living Proof 1 & 2, Speaking of Jesus, Tell the Truth, Two Ways to Live, and Christianity Explained (an evangelistic Bible study on Mark’s Gospel). Kindle 2921
The motto of the Reformed churches, on the other hand, was Ecclesia Reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum dei. That is, “the church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God.” Kindle 3021
“They don’t convert-they choose.” He added, “The marketplace is now the most widely used system of evaluation by younger churchgoers,” and “by this standard, the most successful churches are those that most resemble a suburban shopping mall.”‘ Kindle 3051 

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (6:15).10 Was the multitude satisfied with the teaching of Christ? No. Their desire was to shape Jesus into an earthly king rather than being shaped through Jesus’ spiritual reign over their lives. The crowd was more interested in Jesus adapting to them than in submitting to Him as Lord. So Jesus left the multitude and sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee by boat while he withdrew to the mountain. Kindle 3106.
Bill Hull squarely explains the nature of the gospel message: The gospel is confrontational in its very nature. Any presentation of the gospel that does not present a challenge to the unbeliever to radically change his or her thinking and attitudes toward God and his saving work in Christ is not the same gospel preached in the pages of the New Testament! Today, people can be happy, healthy members of evangelical churches without ever having to face a God who is anything more than a “buddy,” a Savior who is anything more than an example, and a Holy Spirit who is anything more than a power source. And that can happen without faith, without repentance, indeed, without conversion.”Kindle 3129  

What would happen if we returned to doctrinal preaching rather than bending to marketing techniques? Instead of allowing the whims of the crowd to dictate the content of a sermon, which is precisely what happens in seeker-friendly preaching, the preacher would boldly expound the Word of God. Christ would be magnified in His churches rather than attention being given to skilled preachers, big buildings, and clever techniques (2 Cor. 4:1-6; Gal. 6:14). The glory of God would be evident against the backdrop of human inability (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:26-31). The righteousness of the law would be raised as the holy standard that holds men accountable before God (Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 3:19-22). The sufficiency of Jesus Christ would be elevated as the only means for saving sinners (Gal. 2:15-21; Col. 1:15-20). The adequacy of the Holy Spirit would be depended upon to bring revelation, conviction, and regeneration to unbelievers (John 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Titus 3:5). The church would be known as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 4:7-16), a dwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:19-22), a proclaimer of the excellencies of the One who called unbelievers out of darkness into His light (1 Pet. 2:9), and the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-16).

“Moreover, to be ashamed of the Gospel is a fault of cowardice in pastors,” rang out Martin Luther. “But to contradict it and not to listen to it is a fault of stupidity in church members. Kindle 1118

So much attention is given to creating growth in our churches that we may very well be forcing what should be a more natural process by the grace of God. Paul spoke of the local church functioning rightly, with the pastors and teachers equipping the flock, the members doing the works of Christian service, the whole body growing together in doctrinal unity, and each member making his or her own contribution to the body’s needs. Out of this process, growth naturally occurs. It is not forced or programmed. It is not a plan to carefully follow. Rather, it is the Body of Christ living like the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review and Excerpts on the Church, Church Leadership, Elders, Leadership, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring, The Church

The Disrespected Pastor

Ask the man in the pew to describe a minister, and the description may not be flattering.  According to Kyle Haselden, the pastor comes across as a “bland composite” of the congregation’s “congenial, ever helpful, ever ready to help boy scout; as the darling of the old ladies and as sufficiently reserved with the young ones; as the father image for the young people and a companion to lonely men; as the affable glad-hander at teas and civic club luncheons.”  If that pictures reality at all, while the preacher may be liked, he will certainly not be respected.

Haddon W. Robinson in Biblical Preaching; p. 16

Leave a comment

Filed under Church Leadership, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

The Office of Preaching by Martin Luther

The following sermon is taken from volume III of, The Sermons of Martin Luther, published by Baker Book House (Grand Rapids, MI). It was originally published in 1907 in english by Lutherans In All Lands (Minneapolis, MN), in a series titled The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. 12. The original title of this sermon appears below (preached by Luther in 1522 and 1523). This e-text was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink ; it is in the public domain and it may be copied and distributed without restriction. Original pagination from the Baker edition has been kept intact for purposes of reference.
THE SERMONS OF MARTIN LUTHER, VOL. III, PAGE 373
OF THE OFFICE OF PREACHING & OF PREACHERS AND HEARERS:

JOHN 10: 1-11: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
SECTION I. TRUE PREACHERS OF THE WORD MUST BE REGULARLY CALLED.

1. This Gospel treats of the office of the ministry, how it is constituted, what it accomplishes and how it is misused. It is indeed very necessary to know these things, for the office of preaching is second to none in Christendom. St. Paul highly esteemed this office for the reason that through it the Word of God was proclaimed which is effective to the salvation of all who believe it. He says to the Romans (1:16): “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” We must now consider this theme, since our Gospel lesson presents and includes it. It will, however, be a stench in the nostrils of the pope! PAGE 374

But how shall I deal differently with him? The text says: “He that entereth not by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber (murderer).”

2. This verse has been explained as having reference to those who climb, by their presumption, into the best church livings through favor and wealth, recommendations or their own power, not obtaining them by regular appointment and authority. And at present the most pious jurists are punishing people for running to Rome after fees and benefices, or after ecclesiastical preferment and offices. This they call simony. The practice is truly deplorable, for much depends upon being regularly called and appointed. No one should step into the office and preach from his own presumption and without a commission from those having the authority. But under present conditions, if we should wait until we received a commission to preach and to administer the sacraments, we would never perform those offices as long as we live. For the bishops in our day press into their offices by force, and those who have the power of preferment are influenced by friendship and rank. But I pass this by, and will speak of the true office, into which no one forces his way (even though his devotion urge him) without being called by others having the authority.

3. True, we all have authority to preach, yea, we must preach God’s name; we are commanded to do so. Peter says in his first Epistle, (2:9-10) “But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” Nevertheless, Paul establishes order in 1 Cor. 14:40 and says: “In whatever you do among yourselves, let everything be done decently and in order.” In a family there must be order. If all the heirs strive for lordship, anarchy will reign in the family. If, however, by common consent, one of the number is selected for the heirship, the others withdrawing, harmony

PAGE 375

will obtain. Likewise, in the matter of preaching we must make selection that order may be preserved…
(short section omitted here).
SECTION II. PREACHERS OF THE WORD TO PREACH NOTHING BUT THE WORD.

4. So much for the call into the office. But Christ is not speaking of that here; for something more is required, namely, that no rival or supplementary doctrine be introduced, nor another word be taught than Christ has taught. Christ says in Mt. 23:2-4: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens too grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” Although these of whom Christ here speaks were regularly appointed, yet they were thieves and murderers; for they taught variations from Christ’s teaching. Christ reproves them in another place, in Matthew 15:3, where he holds up before them their traditions and tells them how, through their own inventions, they have transgressed the commandments of God, yea, totally abolished them. We have also many prophets who were regularly appointed and still were misled, like Balaam, of whom we read in Num. 22; also Nathan, described in 2 Sam 7:3. Similarly many bishops have erred.

PAGE 376

5. Here Christ says: He who would enter by the door must be ready to speak the Word concerning Christ and his word must center in Christ. Let it be called “coming” when one preaches aright; the approaching is spiritual, and through the Word–upon the ears of his hearers, the preacher comes at last into the sheepfold–the heart of believers. Christ says that the shepherd must enter by the door; that is, preach nothing but Christ, for Christ is the door into the sheepfold.

6. But where there are intruders, who make their own door, their own hole to crawl through, their own addition different from that which Christ taught, they are thieves. Of these Paul says to the Romans (16:17-18): “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.” Paul does not speak of opposing or antagonistic doctrines, but of those placed beside the true doctrine; they are additions, making divisions. Paul calls it a rival doctrine, an addition, an occasion of stumbling, an offense and a byway, when one establishes the conscience upon his own goodness or deeds.

7. Now, the Gospel is sensitive, complete and pre-eminent: it must be intolerant of additions and rival teachings. The doctrine of earning entrance into heaven by virtue of fastings, prayers and penance is a branch road, which the Gospel will not tolerate. But our Church authorities endorse these things, hence they are thieves and murderers; for they do violence to our consciences, which is slaying and destroying the sheep. How is this accomplished? If only I am directed into a branch or parallel road, then my soul is turned from God upon that road, where I must perish. Thus this road is the cause of my death. The conscience and heart of man must be founded upon one single Word or they will come to grief. “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field” (Is 40:6).

8. The doctrines of men, however admirable, fall to the ground, and with them the conscience that has built upon them.

PAGE 377

There is no help nor remedy. But the Word of God is eternal and must endure forever; no devil can overthrow it. The foundation is laid upon which the conscience may be established forever. The words of men must perish and everything that cleaves to them. Those who enter not by the door–that is, those who do not speak the true and pure Word of God, without any addition–do not lay the right foundation; they destroy and torture and slaughter the sheep. Therefore, Christ says further in this Gospel: “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his Voice.”
SECTION III. A TRUE PREACHER SHOULD FIRST USE THE LAW ARIGHT AND THEN PREACH THE GOSPEL.

9. The porter here is the preacher who rightly teaches the Law–shows that the Law exists and must reveal to us our helplessness; that the works of the Law do not help us, and yet they are insistent. He then opens to the shepherd, that is, to Christ the Lord, and lets him alone feed the sheep. For the office of the Law is at an end; it has accomplished its mission of revealing to the heart its sins until it is completely humbled. Then Christ comes and makes a lamb out of the sheep–feeds it with his Gospel and directs it how to regain cheer for the heart so hopelessly troubled and crushed by the Law.

10. The lamb then hears Christ’s voice and follows it. It has the choicest of pastures, and knows the voice of the shepherd. But the voice of a stranger it never hears and never follows. Just as soon as one preaches to it about works, it is worried and its heart cannot receive the teaching with joy. It knows very well that nothing is accomplished by means of works; for one may do as much as he will, still he carries a heavy spirit and he thinks he has not done enough, nor done rightly. But when the Gospel comes–the voice of the shepherd–it says: God gave to the world his only Son, that all who believe on him should not perish, but have everlasting

PAGE 378

life. Then is the heart happy; it feeds upon these words and finds them good. The lamb has found its satisfying pasture; it wants none other. Yea, when it is given other pasture, it flees from it and will not feed therein. This pasture always attracts the sheep, and the sheep also find it. God says in the prophecy of Isaiah: “So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish all in the things whereto, I sent it” (Is 55:11).
SECTION IV. THE HEARERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXAMINE AND JUDGE A SERMON

“And he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. When he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.”

11. In this text there are two thoughts worthy of note: the liberty of faith, and the power to judge. You know that our soul-murderers have proposed to us that what the councils and the learned doctors decide and decree, that we should accept, and not judge for ourselves whether it is right or not. They have become so certain of the infallibility of the councils and doctors that they have now established the edict, publicly seen, that if we do not accept what they say, we are put under the ban. Now, let us take a spear in hand and make a hole in their shield; yea, their resolutions shall be a spider’s web. And you should, moreover, use upon them the spear which until now they have used upon us, and hold before them its point.

12. Remember well that the sheep have to pass judgment upon that which is placed before them. They should say: We have Christ as our Lord and prefer his Word to the words of any man or to those of the angels of darkness. We want to examine and judge for ourselves whether the pope, the bishops and their followers do right or not. For Christ says here that the sheep judge and know which is the right voice and which is not. Now let them come along. Have they decreed anything? We will examine whether it is right, and according

PAGE 379

to our own judgment interpret that which is a private affair for each individual Christian, knowing that the authority to do this is not human, but divine. Even the real sheep flee from a stranger and hold to the voice of their shepherd.

13. Upon this authority., the Gospel knocks all the councils, all the papistic laws, to the ground, granting to us that we should receive nothing without judging it, that we have besides the power to judge, and that such judgment stands until the present day. The papists have taken from us the sword, so that we have not been able to repel any false doctrine, and, moreover, they have by force introduced false teachings among us. If now we take the sword from them they will be sorry. And we must truly take it, not by force, but by means of the Word, letting go all else that we have, saying: I am God’s sheep, whose Word I wish to appropriate to myself. If you will give me that, I will acknowledge you to be a shepherd. If you, however, add another Gospel to this one, and do not give me the pure Gospel, then I will not consider you a shepherd, and will not listen to your voice; for the office of which you boast extends no farther than the Word goes. If we find one to be a shepherd, we should receive him as such: if he is not, we should remove him; for the sheep shall judge the voice of the shepherd. If he does not give us the right kind of pasture, we should bid farewell to such a shepherd, that is, to the bishop; for a hat of pearls and a staff of silver do not make a shepherd or a bishop, but rather does the office depend upon his care of the sheep and their pasture.

14. Now the papists object to judgment being passed upon any of their works; for this reason they have intruded and taken from us the sword which we might use for such a purpose. Also, they dictate that we must accept, without any right of judgment, whatever they propose. And it has almost come to such a pass that whenever the pope breathes they make an article of faith out of it, and they have proclaimed that the authorities have the right to pass such laws for their subjects as they desire, independent of the judgment of the latter. These conditions mean ruin to the Christians,

PAGE 380

so much so that a hundred thousand swords should be desired for one pope. This they know very well, and they cling hard to their laws. If they would permit unbiased judgment, their laws would be set aside and they would have to preach the pure Word; but such a course would reduce the size of their stomachs and the number of their horses.

15. Therefore, be ye aroused by this passage of Scripture to hew to pieces and thrust through everything that is not in harmony with the Gospel, for it belongs to the sheep to judge, and not to the preachers. You have the authority and power to judge everything that is preached; that and nothing less. If we have not this power, then Christ vainly said to us in Mt. 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” We could not beware if we had not the power to judge, but were obliged to accept everything they said and preached.
V. PREACHERS ARE TO FORCE NO ONE TO BELIEVE.

16. The second thought is, no one shall be forced to believe; for the sheep follow him whom they know and flee from strangers. Now, Christ’s wish is that none be forced, but that they be permitted to follow from willing hearts and of their own desire; not out of fear, shame or strife. He would let the Word go forth and accomplish all. When their hearts are taken captive, then they will surely come of themselves. Faith does not go forth from the heart unless it has the Word of God.

17. Our noblemen are now mad and foolish in that they undertake to drive people to believe by means of force and the sword. Christ here wishes the sheep to come of themselves, from their knowledge of his voice. The body may be forced, as the pope, for example, has by his laws coerced people to go to confession and to the Lord’s Supper, but the heart cannot be taken captive. Christ wants it to be free. Although he had power to coerce men, he wished to win them through his pleasing, loving preaching. Whoever lays hold of Christ’s word follows after him and permits nothing to,

PAGE 381

tear him from it. The noblemen wish to drive the people to believe by means of the sword and fire; that is nonsense. Then let us see to it that we allow the pure Word of God to take its course, and afterward leave them free to follow, whom it has taken captive; yea, they will follow voluntarily.

18. By this I do not wish to abolish the civil sword; for the hand can hold it within its grasp so that it does no one any harm, but it holds it inactive. It must be retained because of wicked villains who have no regard at all for the Word; but the sword cannot force the heart and bring it to faith. In view of its inability, it must keep silent in matters of faith; here one must enter by the door, and preach the Word and make the heart free. Only in this way are men led to believe. These are the two expedients–for the pious and the wicked: the pious are to be drawn by the Word, and the wicked to be driven by the sword to observe order.
VI. THE MARKS OF FALSE PREACHERS.

19. Now, Christ interprets his own words. He says that he is the door to the sheep, but all the others who came before him, that is, those who were not sent by God as the prophets were, but came of themselves, uncommissioned, are thieves and murderers; they steal his honor from God and strangle human souls by their false doctrines. But Christ is the door, and whoever enters by him will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. Here Christ speaks of the Christian liberty, which means that Christians are now free from the curse and the tyranny of the Law, and may keep the Law or not, according as they see that the love and need of their neighbor requires. This is what Paul did. When he was among the Jews, he kept the Law with the Jews; when among the gentiles, he kept it as they kept it, which he himself says in 1 Cor. 9:19-23:

“For though I was free from all men, I brought myself under bondage to all, that I might gain the more. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, not being myself under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, not being

PAGE 382

without law to God, but under law to Christ, that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak: I am become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a joint partaker thereof.”

20. That, the thieves and murderers, the false teachers and prophets, never do; they accomplish nothing but to steal, strangle and destroy the sheep. But Christ, the true and faithful shepherd, comes only that the sheep may have life and be fully satisfied. This is enough on today’s Gospel for the present. We will conclude and pray God for grace rightly to lay hold of it and understand it.

 

 

This article was made available on the internet via REFORMATION INK (www.markers.com/ink). Refer any correspondence to Shane Rosenthal

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Preaching and the Church